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Weather warming, fishing improving

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With warmer weather, some species of fish biting in area waters

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

Updated January 26, 2018 03:51 PM
Estuary

Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.

Comments: Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle personally hit the salt water in the Little River vicinity on Sunday and had good success with red drum. On a perfect, warm January day, Stalvey floated mud minnows near the bottom in two feet of water to catch numerous reds. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters and a cohort hit a spot where spotted seatrout have been active on the Intracoastal Waterway in the Sunset Beach, N.C., area late Wednesday afternoon. The trout didn’t cooperate very well as the pair caught and released only one, in the 20-inch range, but near dark they saw an unusual sight. They saw movement on the bank and spotted a bobcat dragging a trout in the 18-inch range away from the water. As a precautionary measure, the South Carolina DNR is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen, recreational and commercial, until June 15.
Inshore

Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.

Comments: Each winter, sheepshead congregate on the near-shore artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, providing anglers with a super option in the dead of winter when the weather cooperates. That time is now. Over the weekend, light winds and warmer-than-normal temperatures, for a change, allowed numerous anglers to have successful trips targeting sheepshead, with perhaps a few black drum mixed in on the reefs. Fiddler crabs and clams are the bait of choice for the finicky sheepshead, which make great table fare. Also look for black sea bass, tautog, weakfish and possibly flounder on the reefs. Action is very slow on Grand Strand piers and in the surf zone. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 47 degrees at the surface and 46 on the bottom Wednesday at 3:55 p.m.
Offshore

Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.

Comments: Sunday was the day to get offshore, with light winds, calm seas and warm temperatures. Numerous boats had success trolling in areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole, putting mainly wahoo and blackfin tuna in the box, plus even a few king mackerel and dolphin. The Early E Bird crew out of Georgetown Landing Marina had a super day fishing the Georgetown Hole in 71-degree water, landing six wahoo, 12 blackfin and two kings. Will Keelin was the angler on the largest wahoo, which weighed in at 62.5 pounds. Will Keelin’s dad, Ed Keelin of Georgetown Landing Marina, announced the marina’s 10th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam will be held April 26-28. A few boats also hit the bottom, with grouper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass and grunts all cooperating. There are currently plenty of bottom-fishing closures in effect. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure went into effect on Jan. 1 and lasts through April 30. The Greater amberjack fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March, 2018. Red snapper are closed in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.

Comments: “It’s looking good, looking real good,” said Stalvey of Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “Water levels are perfect and the fish are biting.” The Waccamaw at Conway was a 6.31 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday while the Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.15 feet at 3 p.m. Stalvey reports good catches of large “hand-size” bream, hitting red worms and nightcrawlers on the bottom in 8 to 16 feet of water on the Waccamaw, Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee. Stalvey called crappie fishing “steady” with fish hitting shiners. Stalvey recommends crankbaits, Texas-rigged worms and Shaky-Head worms for bass. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions has had good success targeting catfish early in the week on the lower Waccamaw near Hagley Landing, where he found a water temperature of 42-43 degrees early in the day, warming to 45 in the afternoon.